Disclaimer: My opinions on Linux are not the official viewpoint of Software Bisque, or any other of its employees. In fact, I believe either Matt and/or Tom are rather fond of Linux. I know they both run Linux for various reasons.
I, however, am most certainly not.
My view of Linux can best be summed up as follows: It’s free… this of course assumes your time is totally worthless.
I just recently finished the fourth edition of my book on OpenGL programming (www.opengl.org/SuperBible). 100 sample programs, 86 of which are cross platform running on Window, Mac OS X, and of course… Linux. We (I have two co-authors) did this in the last edition, but I really didn’t have to do anything. I had a co-worker who was a Linux jock and he made all the make files for me. This time however, I foolishly committed to doing this as one of those “learning experiences”.
I’ve played with Linux in the past. All but once I was unable to complete the installation because I had some hard disk controller, or something or another that was not recognized (but of course essential). Once I got Red Hat running, with 3D hardware acceleration via NVidia’s Red Hat driver… this lasted a month before the hard drive crashed. I could probably have built Stonehenge in the time I have spent trying to install Linux. Recently, my luck has improved somewhat.
A couple of month’s ago I was able to install Ubuntu Linux with very little pain. In fact, it was the first time I have ever had a Linux installation go smoothly and actually work. I installed under a Parallels VM on my MacBook Pro. I could not get the video out of 800x600 mode without Googling for a step by step guide to fix this, but it only took an afternoon, and I didn’t want to smash anything glass at the end of the process.
Getting all the development libraries installed was another matter. After spending quite some time on it, a friend at the school where I teach sat with me for a couple of hours and got me up and going. He uses Linux almost exclusively. Did I mention it took a couple of hours? And I thought installing Visual Studio was a chore!
He was giving a Linux seminar the next day, and I decided to attend and further my Linux experience a bit more. I installed Fedora 7.0 on my HP laptop during the course of his presentation, and of course every time I booted, I had a garbled screen occasionally punctuated by the friendly message “The X Server has restarted 7 times in the last 90 seconds. This is probably not good.”
Wow… ya think? Amazing. Linux is so easy after all! How could I have been so dense?
Gary Miller (my friend from Full Sail) to the rescue. “All” we had to do was switch to a terminal screen (cool trick), and run “yum update”. Thank God I had a 100mb/s Internet connection at the time. An hour later, ta-da, pretty Linux screen! My next adventure was trying to get ATI’s Linux driver to install so I could do hardware accelerated OpenGL (can you say “Seeker on Linux!”). No go. Gary had left, and I spent another two hours Friday night trying to get it to stick. I’ll see Gary again tomorrow… poor guy doesn’t know what’s coming ;-)
All my free time this last weekend was making sure all 86 example programs compiled and ran on Ubuntu. I’ve learned a lot in the last week, and I now have two (somewhat) working Linux installations to play with. I first came to Unix on SGI workstations. Not a great deal of experience there, just some exposure and I liked it. Since moving to the Mac (BSD based), I have come to really like the Unix underpinnings. I almost always have a terminal window open, and like doing things on the command line. I will probably learn to like Linux over time. It’s just hard when you have over 20 years experience to suddenly be put in your place and feel like you’re an idiot who shouldn’t have been allowed to spend so much of his own money on a computer. It’s also hard when you have real work to do, to spend the 40 to 60 hours reading up on Linux so that you can be fairly competent trying to get anything done. All the information is “there”, but it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack sometimes.
My conclusion at the end of all this is that Linux is a fine operating system, but it is built by programmers, for programmers. Ubuntu is a nice step in the right direction, but Linux will never be a popular consumer operating system. You want your momma running Unix? Get her a Mac. OS X is everything Linux wishes it could be. Technically minded people’s brains are wired differently than “most” peoples, and this is why most Linux fans cannot understand what’s so hard about all this. Everyone at Bisque has read Alan Cooper’s book “The Inmates are Running the Asylum”. Anyone doing software development (or any engineering discipline) should HAVE to read this book. Now that I’ve been baptized so-to-speak, Linux will undoubtedly grow on me, but only a little. I can see the attraction, and for many industries it’s a perfect fit (even in ours to some degree), but for my day-to-day productivity needs, I just don’t have that kind of free time.
07-09-2007 3:46 PM